Dr. Aikens is a big fan of Actualism but he isn’t allowed to teach on it. Haley sits in the front row of his class and absorbs everything he says like a sponge. Today’s discussion is on Descartes not on Bejamin Wong, the founder of Actualism, but it is clear that Dr. Aikens is trying to make the connection.
“How do you know that you’re real?” he asks
Haley raises her hand to answer. “I can see my reflection in the window. I can feel my pulse in my wrist and I’m breathing in air every second.”
He likes that answer. “So you’re basing your assumption that you’re real on information you can gather with your senses, correct? What you can see, touch, hear and smell?”
But what if I told you that you can’t trust your senses to always be correct? Senses can be fooled. For instance think about a person taking, what’s that new hallucinogenic out there that the kids all like? The green stuff?”
“Bug juice,” a lethargic voice answers from the back.
Dr. Aikens whirls on a haired boy with red rimmed eyes. To the average person it might look like the boy is under the influence of something, but Haley lives next door to him and has first hand knowledge of the fact that he gets abused at home. He wasn’t a druggie, his distant attitude and lack of concern for school comes from his problems with his father.
“Excellent Mr. Dresden. I knew you would have the answer.”
“So someone taking Bug Juice would experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Therefore the visual data they are able to gather wouldn’t be factual and they wouldn’t be able to believe with that saw, ‘with their own eyes.'”
“So what is the answer then? What can you believe? How do you know you’re real?”
“I’m glad you’re so enthusiastic, Haley. The answer according to Descartes could be summed up in one sentence.” Dr. Aikens turned to the white board and wrote a phrase in red marker, I think therefore I am.
“But what does it mean?” A curly haired girl asked.
“It means that Descartes believed the proof of his existence was based on his ability to think. That the act of thinking itself was the proof.” Here Dr. Aikens paused for effect to see if he’d blown everyones mind. It was clear that he enjoyed his job.
After class Haley found herself in Dr. Aikens office. He had a recent test of hers with a score of 98 and a written message on the front of the paper. He handed it to her proudly, “Do you know you were the only one in the class who managed to write a proper answer to the essay question on the proof of God?”
Haley couldn’t help but smile at this. She didn’t agree with Dr. Aikens on some things but she did enjoy his praise. “I’m glad to hear you liked my answer.”
He sat down at the desk and steepled his fingers.”I did enjoy reading your response, it seems you’ve some deep rooted beliefs that have no basis in logic, but nevertheless are fascinating.”
“Are you talking about my faith?”
“Yes, indeed. Faith is an interesting concept.”
“Don’t you think it’s better than believing in nothing?” I hadn’t come here to debate the man on religion, but I was the daughter of a paster after all.
He stood and turned to the bookshelf behind him. “I wouldn’t say I believe in nothing.” He chose a hardback book with a dark purple cover and a strange golden symbol on the front. If I had to guess I would have said it looked Egyptian. He handed the book to me. I half expected it to be full of satanic rituals and spells. Instead the cover read Benjamin Wong and within it’s pages contained the principles that a nation would later use a road map for life after their faith had failed them.
“I think you might find this interesting, he said.